Hernan De La Cruz Ramos


My teeth full of soil and grass,
his fat ass perched on my hip, twisted
when I hit the ground. Blacked out
for a second when my head first made
impact. The stiff nerves of my eyes,
currents shocked and tense, staring
at the chipped cement of my front porch.

It, too, was once liquid, hardened
into a shape and given to the
weather to grow worn, to be trampled,
to lose parts of itself and watch them
hit the dirt.

This boy puts his heavy hand on my head
to keep my temple to the cool earth.
It’s been ages, I’ve been other people and places
since I last said his name, contemplated
the curve of his jeans, the dent of his dick, pictured it
laying across my back as he told me to say Mercy.


This poem will start with:
Jennifer Laude was killed in a land built on the beheading of peace
Wait, no, this poem will start with:
Jennifer Laude was killed on October 11, 2014
    I am looking at her pictures
    I am rereading rewriting and revising—

This poem will start before that:
the Visiting Forces Agreement
was enacted in 1999, ensured
that American footsteps
would not be questioned
on Filipino soil

Whatever the troops do here is their business
they’re only here to protect us

This poem will start before that:
when Japan attempted to colonize us in WWII
the U.S. “came to our rescue”

when will it be our turn to save us?

This poem starts before that:
   I guess we should be grateful that the Conquistadors
   let us “borrow” a few things
they gave us sapatos to cover our feet, stop us from dirtying the Earth
they gave us syampu to clean our tribes out of our hair

   I am trying to get my mother to teach me our language
   but my tongue cannot recognize the shapes

This poem starts before that:
the legend goes,
when an Elder attempted to bring two warring tribes to peace
He was decapitated
and they named the land
“Olongapo” – the head of the elder

         It is Thanksgiving, I tuck this poem in the back of my throat,         
         try telling my mother and her sister
         about Jennifer Laude’s case
         Nanay says I shouldn’t depress the family with such things
         I look at her pictures
         I read about the last person to be seen with her:
         white American Soldier, Joseph Scott Pemberton
         I look at her pictures
         I look at my Filipina aunt’s white husband and her white kids
         Uncle Tom and TJ say I look
         ”very gay” and “a little faggy” in my pictures
         I wanted to say, “Why, thank you, I thought so myself”
         Nanay asks me,
         ”Are you bakla? We still love you if you are”
         The table shook with their laughter
         and I didn’t have the heart to tell her

This poem is for you, Jennifer Laude
   I’ve read the newspapers
   and even the Filipinos don’t love you
Jennifer Laude, they call you bakla
because they don’t know the difference
between a gay man and a trans woman
   they say “he died”
   they call you “Jeffrey”
Jennifer Laude, they made you a martyr
because every movement needs at least one
Jennifer Laude, in Olongapo,
you weren’t worth any more than the two condoms
your American soldier left for you in that motel room
   as you rested your head on the toilet bowl

      It is February 4th, 2015
      5 trans women of color have been murdered in the U.S. this year
      No, it is August 10, 2015
      12 trans women of color have been murdered in the U.S. this year
      No, it is December 1, 2015
      20 trans women of color have been murdered in the U.S. this year
         We march, we protest
         In the U.S. we fight for our bodies, but
      In Olongapo, there are no more warring tribes
         Only soldiers docking on our coasts
         as they take our soil for “defense assets”
         we wait as they delay their trials
         carry their bricks of silence in the courtrooms
      In Olongapo, we ask for
         our houses back as soldiers search
         through our food with their teeth
      In Olongapo, the VFA says these things are “regulated”
         these things are “military exercises”
         three letters, three mountains with ghosts
         buried beneath each one

Jennifer Laude, I am rereading and rewriting and revising
   but for some reason, I cannot get the words
   to burn as they leave my tongue
   No matter how hard I press these keys
   no matter how many times I write your name
   no matter how loud my voice gets when I read this
   the words don’t feel powerful enough
   to strip the hatred that lays on our land
   like lead blankets covered in disease
Jennifer Laude, I will see you in the star on our flag
   that hangs above my aunt’s front porch
   I will see you in every rainbow flag
   I will see you in the color of my skin
   I will save a space for you in my heart
   every time I say mahal kita to my mother

Freestyle, Cruisin’

Hazy-eyed, I ride through Oakland in slow motion. For the longest time,
I thought my middle name was De La Cruise, not De La Cruz.
I wear my name the way every martyr has their cross to bear.
I’m tryna make a journey with it.
Tryna make my mother’s journey worth it.
I’m always workin, I just don’t always get paid.
I will trust this poetry is my road and I will go where it goes.
Hazy-eyed, I ride
through Oakland in slow motion. I love smoking.
I don’t give a fuck how juvenile it sounds, I love smoking.
This bloodtrip I inhale, reminding me
that breathing is the only thing
done as easily as it is said.
There’s something about how long the sun takes to set
out west, the spectrum that much wider,
like car wash puddles stretching back that much farther,
I will follow it ‘till it turns the deepest blue,
‘till the deepest blue grows the faintest sunshine
and my eyelids peel themselves from the viscous white
walls of my eyes. I want somewhere to call home
without moving into someone’s own.
I ride
through Oakland
in slow motion.
I think about how seamlessly Jamal switches between
four languages at the bodega around the block,
about that spot
my father talked about
back in P-town
that kept a tab open
whenever his parents were short on rent
but still needed milk, eggs, and bread.
I think about how my father said
“Paterson stopped being Paterson” when
the store-owner was found, bled out
maybe four stab wounds.
Do I write this down?

I look up. And around.
What claim do I have over all this pain?

Hernan De La Cruz Ramos is a poet and educator, born in New Jersey and currently living in Oakland, California. He is enamored with the magic of language, all language and believes in the power of the spoken word.

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